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West Allis gets split four ways in redistricting

Legislative decision rankles various city and state officials

Aug. 10, 2011

West Allis - They ended up shouting into the wind, but West Allis officials are not happy with the state redistricting plan.

The city's state representation will be in parts of four Assembly districts - currently, it is in two - and its shared representatives will stretch further into Waukesha County than it does at present. And by sharing a representative with New Berlin, there are doubts as to how strong West Allis representation will be.

A mixed-party jurisdiction

Most of West Allis is in the 15th Assembly District represented by Anthony Staskunas, D-West Allis. But with redistricting, he lost nearly a third of his district.

A big chunk of eastern West Allis will now be in the 7th Assembly District, now represented by Peggy Krusick, D-Milwaukee.

Staskunas will pick up a chunk of New Berlin, known to vote Republican, which leads some to worry about whether the seat will remain in Democrats' control.

In the 7th Assembly District, the eastern West Allis from about 70th Street in the north and 76th Street in the south will share representation with West Milwaukee and parts of Greenfield and Milwaukee.

Some of northern West Allis will be in the 13th District along with parts of Wauwatosa, Milwaukee, Elm Grove and a large amount of Brookfield.

Most of the city west of 108th Street will be in the 84th Assembly District along with New Berlin and parts of Greenfield and Milwaukee. This western corridor is now in Assembly District 14, represented by Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield.

"(Republicans have) carved out niches to their political advantage," said Paul Ziehler, city administrative officer.

Warding off confusion

Added to the potential weakening of West Allis representation on the state level is the tortured ward-drawing local officials must now do to jam city voting wards into state assembly and senate districts, he said.

The city had already solved the jigsaw puzzle of wards so that they were compact and with approximately equal populations, Ziehler said. Then the state came along and turned the process upside-down.

Instead of the state districts being drawn based on wards that keep neighborhoods together and are compact, state officials decided they wanted to draw their lines first, he said.

"We had them so logical and all the populations in balance," Ziehler said.

"What's frustrating in the whole process is that nobody at the state level touched base with anybody at the local level," Ziehler said. "The state hired all these expensive attorneys and not one asked us if it makes sense, or 'Does this work for you?' "

The result is that ward boundaries will not be as clean or balanced in terms of population, he said.

"Some lines are going to look real screwy," Ziehler said.

The approximately 60,000 population in West Allis are divided into five aldermanic districts of about 12,000 each. Then each district is divided into five wards of 2,400 each, ideally, Ziehler said.

The new configuration will likely have a couple wards at less than 2,000 people and a few at 2,800 and even 2,900, he said. Although that's still within federal redistricting guidelines, he said, balanced wards are best to avoid delays for voters on election day.

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